Blockstream, a blockchain and financial cryptography company, has announced the availability of Blockstream Satellite, a new service that broadcasts real-time Bitcoin blockchain data from a group of communication satellites in space to an almost global audience. Blockstream Satellite enables further participation in Bitcoin for those with no previous access or prohibitive bandwidth costs. The satellite provides coverage across two thirds of the Earth’s landmass, with additional coverage areas set to come online to reach almost every person on the globe by the end of the year.
Dr. Adam Back, co-founder and CEO at Blockstream, stated: “Bitcoin is a powerful and transformative internet native digital money that has blazed a trail of disruption, with its full potential yet to unfold. Because it’s permissionless, Bitcoin enables anyone to freely create new financial applications and other innovations that use the blockchain that haven’t been possible before. Today’s launch of Blockstream Satellite gives even more people on the planet the choice to participate in Bitcoin. With more users accessing the Bitcoin blockchain with the free broadcast from Blockstream Satellite, we expect the global reach to drive more adoption and use cases for Bitcoin, while strengthening the overall robustness of the network.”
The public satellite service will allows anyone to operate and maintain Bitcoin nodes, without the constraints of traditional network connectivity. Blockstream Satellite sends blocks in real-time, as well as recirculates older blocks, providing free access to the Bitcoin blockchain for both long-time and new users of the cryptocurrency. In addition, Blockstream Satellite provides an additional layer of reliability for blockchain data in the event of a network partition.
The Blockstream Satellite network currently consists of three geosynchronous satellites at various positions over Earth that cover four continents — Africa, Europe, South America, and North America. By the end of 2017, additional satellites will be added to the Blockstream Satellite network enabling worldwide coverage and reaching nearly every person on the planet. Ground stations, called teleports, uplink the public Bitcoin blockchain data to the satellites in the network, which then broadcast the data to large areas across the globe.
Blockstream Satellite makes extensive use of open source software. GNU Radio, an open source software development toolkit, enables the cross platform implementation of software-defined radios (SDR). The use of SDRs eliminates the need for specialized hardware, which greatly reduces cost and makes the technology widely available. To further ensure performance and reliability, Blockstream Satellite utilizes the Fast Internet Bitcoin Relay Engine (FIBRE), an open source protocol based on several years of experience operating and studying the Bitcoin Relay Network. Together, these open source technologies power the Blockstream Satellite network enabling Blockstream to provide this free service reliably and cost effectively.
A bitcoin node operator in West Africa, Tim Akinbo commented: “When I first heard of Blockstream Satellite, I immediately recognized its great potential to bring Bitcoin to regions of the world where internet access is either unavailable or expensive. Not to mention its ability to provide redundancy when Internet access is temporarily unavailable,”